Friday, February 13, 2015

Point Thriller: The Dead Girlfriend (R.L. Stine)


Jonathon is bad news. We know this because that's how Annie, our heroine, introduces him at the very beginning. She just moved to town with her parents and her little brother Caleb, and she decides to take a trip up to the falls in town, which the real estate agent told them was one of the best in the country. When she sees a man getting ready to jump, she drops her bike and runs to help him.

No worries though. It's actually just Jonathon. We know he's super cute because she describes him as looking like Luke Perry with James Dean hair. Mm, James Dean. After saying he was meeting someone up there, he does a little flirting with Annie before walking her back to her bike. Turns out that someone slashed her tires but there is no one else around. While helping her back to town, Jonathon runs into his friend Ruby. Ruby spends far too much time rubbing on him, flirting with him, and ignoring Annie, but that doesn't stop him from inviting her to a party later that week.

In what is clearly a 90s party, Annie pairs black tights with a silky white shirt and a skintight black Betsy Johnson miniskirt. She meets his best friend Caleb, who is pretty crazy and tends to make Jonathon act a little crazy. She also meets his girlfriend Dawn. Dawn refuses to believe that Jonathon was at the falls at first and acts a little weird. She also talks badly about Ruby and insinuates that the other girl is a whore. Caleb rushes up with news that they all plan to hit the batting cages, and Annie sees Jonathon getting a little too close to Ruby.

Jonathon drives like a crazy man on the way to the batting cages. Caleb then climbs to the top, acts like a monkey, and jumps off the side. He acts like he fell and hurt himself before jumping up and laughing. Dawn then reveals that he's kind of an ass and that they fight a lot.

Cut to Annie's first day of school. She and Dawn quickly become good friends. Dawn warns her that Ruby has a thing for Jonathon. Duh, you think? She starts to explain why he never goes to the falls, but Ruby interrupts. Dawn then takes Annie to the trophy case and shows her the picture of a super pretty girl. She says her name was Louisa and that she was Jonathon's girlfriend.

Annie cannot stop thinking about Louisa and finally gets Dawn to tell her the whole story. Apparently, Louisa and Jonathon went for a bike ride up the falls. He said that they had a fight and he left her alone for a few minutes. When he got back, she was gone. They found her bike at the bottom of the falls and found her body later. Since some saw him chumming around with Ruby, most kids think he killed Louisa.

While she doubts that, she does call him and learns that he went out with Ruby for the night. Since we need another red herring, she also meets this guy Ryan. He knew Louisa really well and seems to know Annie too. After creeping around for a few minutes, he asks her out before saying that she probably has plans and running off down the hallway.

Ryan recognized her because he saw her in the computer lab. Even though she just moved to the school, she still has to research, write, and turn in a major social studies paper at the same time as all the other students. After pulling up her paper, she finds that someone deleted the whole thing and left a warning at the very bottom to stay away from Jonathon. The same person then calls and tells her the same thing.

Dawn refuses to believe that Ruby did it. Annie finds out that the two take an electrical wiring class every Saturday and that despite their backstabbing, they're good friends. Even though he went out with another girl, Annie still agrees to go out with him that weekend. They go for a bike ride and pick up Caleb, who pretends to ride his bike in front of a truck.

After a few minutes at the falls, Ruby and Dawn show up. They all hang out for awhile, but when they turn around, Jonathon is missing. Ruby starts screaming that he's dead and went over the falls. He actually pops out of the bushes, jumps on his bike, and races off. I guess that's one way to end a date.

Jonathon calls to apologize and ask her out again, and Dawn calls to say that it was probably too soon for him to be at the falls. Annie decides to take a bike ride and clear her head, but she then hears someone chasing her. After jumping on her and knocking her off her bike, he reveals himself as Ryan. He warns her about dating Jonathon and whines about how Louisa was his best friend before shouting at her and chasing her off.

As if things weren't bad enough, she then gets electrocuted. Something with the wiring on her computer completely knocks her out. When she wakes up, she sees read. Finding Ruby with Jonathon, Annie throws herself on the other girl and slams her head repeatedly against a locked. Though she doesn't get locked out, she does get lectures from Dawn about how Ruby is oh-so-nice and absolutely not trying to steal Jonathon away. Uh-huh.

Annie, who had some bad dreams about Louisa, then sees her in the gym. Ha-ha fooled you! She actually sees her older sister Danielle, who just so happens to look exactly like her. Danielle takes her out for a Coke to talk about her sister. That's awfully nice of her. Annie learns that Ruby was at the falls with them when the "accident" happened and that Danielle sometimes wonders if Ruby killed her sister.

On that charming note, we cut to a party at Annie's house. She called and apologized to Ruby and made up with Jonathon again. Everyone comes over to eat spaghetti and have a party at her house. Yes, Stine, there is nothing that teenagers enjoy more than a good old-fashioned spaghetti party. At the end of the night, her mom offers to help her clean up but she tells her to go bed. Annie finds a pot left boiling on the stove, and when she takes off the lid, she finds her dead cat inside.

Jonathon somehow convinces her to go back up the falls the next day. When she brings up Louisa, he finally snaps and says he killed her. He really means that he brought her up to the falls, which caused her death. Jonathon decides to tell her the whole story about how Ruby killed her, but then Ruby comes out of the woods and says it's a lie.

His story is that he and Ruby were sneaking around for months. He decided to end things with Louisa, and they both brought her up to the falls to tell her. Caleb showed up, Jonathon wandered off, and when he came back, he discovered that Ruby pushed her over the edge. They fight, roll around on the ground, and Ruby goes over the side.

Annie tries to run away because she thinks he now wants to kill her. Dawn pops up, clearly there are lots of places to hide in the woods, and announces that she'll back up Jonathon when he tells the cops that Annie pushed Ruby over the falls, tried to push him too, and fell to her own death. When she tries to run, Dawn grabs her from behind. They fight and nearly go over until Jonathon tackles Dawn.

The cops show up to save the day. Ruby somehow managed to land on a ledge and break her arm. She walked out and called the police for help. Let's ignore the fact that this seemingly took place in the span of 10 minutes or less. Jonathon helps Annie off the ground and the book ends with them making out. I guess it's okay that he was an ass in the end?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Goosebumps #14: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (R.L. Stine)


Grady and Emily move to Florida after their parents accept a new research assignment for the university. Their dad brought in some weird deer from South America and want to see how they fare in the US. They plan to put tracking devices on them and follow their movements. Grady doesn't really mind the move, but Emily hates that she has to leave all her friends behind and miss out on her last year in high school.

In the hopes of having some fun, they take a walk in the swamp behind their house. They stumble across a random cabin in the woods and some man who mumbles to himself and seems a little crazy. When he chases them away from the cabin, they run home and tell their parents what happened. In a fit of Wakefield-like parenting, their dad tells them not to worry. He heard in town about a crazy hermit living in the swamp but it's not a big deal.

Not long after moving there, Grady meets this kid Will. They take some walks and explore the swamps, and he eventually introduces him to this girl Cassie. Cassie is obsessed with the idea of werewolves and thinks there is at least one living in the swamp. Will also tells him that Fever Swamp got its name after a weird virus swept through the area and killed a bunch of people. Not surprisingly, Grady later comes down with a fever of his own. It tends to come and go, but his parents just ignore it.

Then, he and Emily both wake in the middle of the night to the sounds of something outside howling and making loud noises. Their parents wake and claim it was just a side effect of his fever, even though Emily heard it too. The next day, they find a random dog outside their house. Everyone decides that the dog was responsible for the noises they heard. Both kids beg their parents to keep the dog, and since it looks like a wolf, they name him Wolf.

The first night Wolf stays in the house, he goes crazy. He runs around the house, breaks a lamp, and keeps howling, so they put him outside. Several random animals then turn up dead. They find a heron, a rabbit, and then one of the deer. Grady's dad decides that Wolf is too much of a danger and that he should go to the pound. Grady disagrees.

He, Will, and Cassie go off to check out the woods. She keeps talking about werewolves and they try to ignore her. They come across the hermit, who goes cray-cray and starts screaming that he is the werewolf. The kids take off, and Grady gets separated from the group. After being bit by a snake in the woods, Wolf licked his hand until he felt better while his parents just ignored him. When his dad comes for his dog, he pushes him away, tells him to run, and Wolf takes off.

When Grady hears howling again in the middle of the night, he decides to investigate on his own. He runs into Will in the swamp, and they decide that it must be the hermit. Before they can get there though, Will transforms into a werewolf and bites Grady. Wolf attacks, the two fight, and Grady passes out.

He wakes up at home and finds out that the hermit brought him home after finding him in the woods. Grady tells them all about Will and where he lives. His dad assumes it was just the fever talking again but agrees to check things out. He comes back with the news that no one lives in the house or has lived there in a long time. Since the hermit claims he saw Wolf chasing off another animal, they decide to let him keep his dog. And then, in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, Grady reveals that he's now a werewolf and prowls the woods with his dog by his side.

*My copy is one of the newer ones from the mid-2000s, and it has a bunch of extra stuff in the back, like an interview with Stine himself. It's kind of weird to read about him surfing the web and playing games online.

*The description on the back of the book talks about how Grady's dog howls at the moon, disappears at midnight, and all this other crap that doesn't really happen in the book.

*Is this the first time Stine used a teenager in a Goosebumps book? I can't remember anyone other than Emily having a bigger role.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Goosebumps HorrorLand #3: Monster Blood for Breakfast!


Bradley is, without a doubt, the most annoying character who ever appeared in one of these books. Our main character, Matt, is the star of the school swimming team and the biggest science nerd in school. Bradley is his next door neighbor. Though he doesn't like him and doesn't want him around, his mom keeps letting him in their house. The steals Matt's favorite clothes, eats his breakfast, and is just an asshat. When he tells him about his idea to build a computerized birdhouse, Bradley steals the plans and shows them to their teacher as his idea for the science fair.

One day on the way to school, Bradley picks up a rock and throws it at the stop sign. It bounces off and smashes into the windshield of their principal. Bradley runs off and Matt takes the blame, with the principal warning him that he needs to act right with the big swim meet coming up.

At school, Bradley cheats off him on a test. When their teacher catches them, he claims that Matt did it without him asking. They both fail the test, and the teacher tells Matt that it was nice of him to help his friend but that he now has two strikes. One more strike means he'll get suspended. That strike almost comes when he attacks Bradley and a teacher catches them fighting. Bradley then claims they were just playing and acts like Matt should kiss his feet for getting him out of trouble.

Matt then catches Bradley using his computer without his permission and runs him off. He finds his computer frozen on a website selling Monster Blood. The next day, two men in black show up on his doorstep. They tell him that they need back what he ordered, there's a short scuffle, and Matt manages to run away. Once the Monster Blood arrives in the mail, all hell breaks loose.

Even though he's an athlete, Matt is also a nerd who grows ivy in his room. He accidentally gets some of the Monster Blood on the plant. When he wakes in the middle of the night, he sees a man in his room. It's actually just the plant growing because it got Monster Blood on it. Matt also gets a little of it on his skin too, right before the big meet.

He immediately notices that he has more muscles and feels stronger. When he jumps in the water, he starts growing until he's more than six foot tall. This causes him to win the meet and break the national record. Unfortunately, he keeps growing and has to sneak out of the pool and into the locker room. His clothes won't fit and people keep coming and going, so he has to make a decision fast.

Thinking that water made him grow faster, he tries standing under the hairdryers to shrink himself. That doesn't work, so he sneaks out of the locker room and runs home. He runs into the guys from before, but they're actually looking for something else Bradley ordered off his computer. He goes to Bradley for help, but there's nothing he can really do. They find the instructions for the Monster Blood and learn it was just a 12-hour sample. He ends up going back to normal, but his plant remains big.

Suddenly it's the day of the science fair. Matt presents his birdhouse, and his teacher basically tells him that he won but that they still need to look at the other entries. Just as he's about to win, Bradley runs in with Matt's plant and wins the award after claiming he did an experiment with light waves. Matt considers telling the teacher that it's his plant, but then he sees the plant slowly wrapping itself around Bradley.

Lesson of this one? I really, really, really dislike Bradley.

HorrorLand Bonus Story:

Matt got an invitation to HorrorLand and ran into Billy and his sister Sheena. Sheena became invisible, and they found a weird mirror that showed two missing girls in it. They find two detectives and ask for their help. The detectives go to the mirror and find it gone, but they invite the kids to a secret room, which actually looks like some creepy laboratory.

After whispering between them, they make Billy get in an x-ray machine. They keep talking about finding something that's missing on the kids. Matt realizes that they mean the key card a Horror gave him in another book. He goes through the machine, they find nothing, and the kids run away. It turns out that Matt gave the card to Sheena, which turned it invisible. She hands it back to him, and he unlocks a door that lets them escape the two guys.

After running wild through the park, they come across a little store. Billy picks up a can of Monster Blood, Matt freaks out, and he drops it on the ground. It comes to life and expands, pulling him into it. Sheena tries to help her brother, and it pulls her in too. Byron, the Horror who gave Matt the card, pops up. He first says he can't help, but he then pulls out a mirror that stops the blood from taking over the kids.

Billy walks away free and clear, but there is no trace of Sheena. Other horrors show up and take Byron away. As he screams about how they can't do this to him, Matt finds a broken piece of glass on the ground. Though there's no sign of Sheena, it does show the two missing girls screaming in horror with a carousel on fire behind them.